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Tomblin inaugural ball to change venues

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Civic Center will be unusually quiet following January's gubernatorial inauguration.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the city's largest event space will not host the governor's inauguration ceremony. The party instead will be held a few blocks east, in the Clay Center.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, according to "save the date" cards mailed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's inauguration committee this week.

John Robertson, the Civic Center's general manager, said he had "absolutely no idea" why Tomblin chose to move the event. He said the Civic Center has hosted every governor's inaugural party since Sen. Jay Rockefeller's second term in 1981.

Losing the event probably will cost the Civic Center around $150,000. Robertson said most governors have rented the entire facility, including the Coliseum and Grand Hall, and also use the Civic Center's catering services.

"We've done as many as 4,000 to 6,000 people, depending on the inaugural," he said.

Robertson said a governor's second inaugural party is usually a smaller affair than his first.

Tomblin did not host an inauguration celebration following his swearing-in last November, but January's affair is certain to be a much smaller event than previous gubernatorial parties.

Robertson said Sen. Joe Manchin's first inaugural party drew close to 6,000 attendees.

The Clay Center can hold only about 2,000 people.

"They're going to use basically every space we have," said Clay Center spokeswoman LeAnn Dickens.

That includes the facility's main stage, its smaller Walker Theater, the ticketing lobby, the grand lobby outside its performance hall, the art galleries and even its Avampato Discovery Museum, a 12,000-square-foot science museum.

Only the Clay Center's planetarium will remain unused.

Dickens said Tomblin's inauguration committee asked if the Clay Center could support 2,000 attendees: 500 tickets available to the general public, plus 1,500 invitations. The Clay Center checked with the Charleston Fire Marshall's office, which approved the space for a little more than 2,000 people.

Robertson said he learned the Civic Center would not host next year's party through a voicemail from Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Schuler-Goodwin. He said Goodwin offered to explain the governor's decision.

"There's no sense in me calling back. They've made their decision. I may not agree with it . . . but we're not in a position to contest it," he said.

Goodwin said the decision to move the event ultimately came down to the governor and first lady Joanne Tomblin, but she did not know why they decided against the Civic Center.

"I know that it was something they wanted to do. I know the Civic Center has hosted and has been a showcase for many wonderful events. We love everything they do. To that respect, the Clay Center is also a beautiful building and a crown jewel of the city of Charleston," she said.

"It was just their choice."

Goodwin said inauguration committee members looked at the pros and cons of several local venues before making a decision.

"If you're having a large-scale event in the city of Charleston, your choices are limited to some extent as to how many people you want to invite," she said.

Tomblin's second inaugural ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 14.

The ceremony will be held on the Capitol steps facing the Kanawha River and is open to the public. A short reception will follow at the Culture Center.

Tomblin will share the limelight with other members of the Board of Public Works, including newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick and incoming Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, State Treasurer John Perdue and State Auditor Glen Gainer also will take oaths for new terms at the ceremony.

Tom Heywood, a local lawyer who also is a member of the Clay Center's board of directors, will serve as master of ceremonies. West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General James Hoyer will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Rev. Matthew Watts of Grace Baptist Church in Charleston will deliver the invocation, The Rev. George Kostas of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Logan will give the inaugural prayer and the Rev. Doug Craven of the First Presbyterian Church in Logan will deliver the benediction.

The West Virginia National Guard's 249th Army Band, based in Morgantown, will perform the national anthem and other musical pieces throughout the ceremony.

The Appalachian Children's Chorus will perform "My Home Among the Hills" before being joined by the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus to sing "Total Praise."

Tomblin's first inauguration occurred just over a year ago, following a special gubernatorial election. "America's Got Talent" winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. — a fellow Logan native — performed at that ceremony, but Tomblin did not hold the typical post-inaugural celebration, citing difficult economic times.

"Joanne and I have opted to forgo any further celebrations and focus on the hard work we need to do for our state to create more jobs and lower taxes," Tomblin said in a campaign email sent at the time.

Tomblin, who formerly was state Senate president, also received a smaller investiture ceremony in 2010 when he became acting governor following Joe Manchin's election to the U.S. Senate.

Manchin was elected to Congress in a special election that year, following Sen. Robert C. Byrd's death in June.

Heywood did not return calls and messages left at his office on Tuesday. Taunja Willis-Miller, treasurer of Tomblin's gubernatorial inauguration committee, also did not return calls and messages left for her.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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